Foodie culture has officially come for Ocean City, with Baltimore’s favorite beach town now home to a broad assortment of restaurants and eateries that offer a quick bite on the boardwalk, a festive sit-down dinner and everything in between.
During a recent trip to the shore for The Baltimore Banner, I revisited some old favorites and checked out some new additions, too.
Here are nine spots to visit on your next trip.
The Shark on the Harbor
Under the leadership of the late Travis Wright, West Ocean City’s Shark on the Harbor (12924 Sunset Ave.) became known as one of the few restaurants in the area to craft a daily menu using local produce and seafood, taking advantage of a waterfront location and the watermen who arrive below. Nearly four years after Wright’s death and just one year after the sale of the restaurant to longtime employees, The Shark is carrying on the tradition of tasty and unexpected fare with a slight Charleston accent (pimento cheese comes with complimentary bread and gets slathered on the house fried green tomatoes).
The service is attentive and personal. I laughed at my own foolishness after ordering the $35 Thursday night lobster special, only to face down a huge red crustacean that I had no idea how to crack into. A kind bartender guided me through the process despite her own seafood allergy.
Diners who miss Braddah Barney’s, a delightful Asian fusion cafe formerly in West Ocean City, must now go to Berlin — Berlin, Maryland, that is — to check out the owners’ new venture.
Inside a historic theater building at 12 Broad St., The Globe offers a menu focused on tasty barbecue with a few other surprises, including golden tostones, or fried plantains, served with guacamole and made fresh to order. It’s a simple dish, and yet I’m still thinking about it days later. And don’t miss the peach cobbler side, a buttery concoction that tastes like your favorite aunt’s secret recipe.
Fans of Braddah Barney’s can find Asian-influenced specials, such as a pho burger featured during my recent visit. Want to indulge a gambling streak? Pay $5 to roll a 20-side die that determines what type of shot you’ll get from the bar. The eatery also serves as an art gallery and music venue, with Afroman slated to perform this fall.
Afterwards, stop on by the Island Creamery, picked by USA Today readers as one of America’s top ice cream shops.
Named America’s “coolest small town” and just a short drive from Ocean City, downtown Berlin is a delightful day trip when you’ve had enough sand. Check out their Mayberry-esque Main Street of antique and toy stores, plus several restaurants and the “world’s first” mermaid museum.
The Other One Brewing Co.
Despite the name, the Other One is actually Ocean City’s only brewery right now. It opened in March in the Taustin Group’s large new complex at 2305 Philadelphia Ave., yet already has the feel of a beloved neighborhood hangout. Diners can sit at the bar or at tables; the cozy, living room-like space offers guests a comfy leather couch to sit in and an assortment of games to play.
Owners Gina and Nathan Todd are no strangers to hospitality. Nathan previously was head brewer at Ocean City’s Backshore Brewing, which closed in 2021, while Gina worked at several local restaurants before joining her husband to launch The Other One. The spot is named for a Grateful Dead song and decor is inspired by the couple’s trips to other breweries around the country, including to Asheville, North Carolina.
Look for a limited menu of bar bites to accompany a range of beers, including the Mornin’ Jay! coffee porter, which uses brew from a neighboring coffee shop. Upstairs is an adult-friendly arcade with axe throwing.
America’s favorite side dish is the star of the show at Thrasher’s, the Ocean City boardwalk stand with branches at the pier, 2nd Street and 8th Street.
“I’m trying to get them to do chips,” said the guy behind the counter after taking my order. Good luck, kid.
Opened in 1929, Thrasher’s does one thing, and that’s french fries. Customers who want ketchup or any other topping besides salt and vinegar are out of luck. A friend and I sat down at a bench to dig into our cup, which runneth over with golden brown potato sticks, as aggressive-looking seagulls eyed us enviously.
With no other adornment, you can actually taste the potato, cooked until it’s tender perfection. The secret, we’re told, is the peanut oil the company uses to fry them.
Located on the ground floor of a hotel at 218 N. Baltimore Ave., the bright and inviting Casita Linda offers a delectable assortment of homemade Mexican fare, including tacos and tortas, or sandwiches served on fresh, house-made bread. I enjoyed the vegetarian nopales, or cactus version, roasted with cheese, beans and avocado, along with a refreshing iced horchata.
Whenever my family has gone to the shore together, my father’s routine is to go out for a dozen doughnuts and pick up as many newspapers as he can find. He spends the rest of the day reading and grazing on the screened-in porch, and of course, he shares with the kids.
Maybe that’s the reason I crave doughnuts whenever I go to the beach. Fortunately, there’s Fractured Prune, a ubiquitous presence in Ocean City with six locations up and down the strip. Hand-dipped doughnuts with a whimsical array of toppings melt in your mouth.
Macky’s Bayside Bar & Grill
Under new management this year, the beloved waterfront beach bar at 5311 Coastal Highway still offers locals and tourists a festive place to take in the bayside sunsets, which are even more spectacular than the oceanside views.
During a recent visit, it hosted an eclectic crowd — everyone from a tiara-wearing 21st birthday party celebrant taking shots with her entourage to parents with young kids in tow. (And what better place to take kids than a beach bar where they can play in the sand?)
Spain Wine Bar
Looking for something more adult? Now in its second full summer atop the Cambria Hotel at 13 St. Louis Ave., Spain Wine Bar seems to have cemented its place as OC’s cool date night and special occasion group dinner spot.
The thoughtfully designed space offers rustic, Mediterranean-style nooks for gathering and tons of al fresco dining that overlooks the bay. Music is loud and the vibe is fun and glamorous. During a recent breezy evening, many diners staved off the chill with Mexican blankets provided by the restaurant. The menu is heavy on tapas and charcuterie boards, plus a few larger dishes designed for sharing.
Happy Jack Pancake House
I’ve never won the lottery but I can imagine what it feels like after sitting on the Ocean City boardwalk, famished on a Friday morning, and getting an alert on my phone that I’d made it to the front of the waitlist for Happy Jack Pancake House.
I’d come to the breakfast spot at 2504 Philadelphia Ave. on the recommendation of a Facebook friend, Pete Kerzel, a longtime sports reporter who retired to the beach. Kerzel has been coming to town since his childhood, when local fine dining options were limited to mostly Phillips crab house. Back in those days, Kerzel wore long pants and hard shoes for dinner with his parents at the iconic beachside spot, which shut down during the pandemic.
Nowadays, he favors more casual options like Happy Jack, where he can get a big breakfast for under $10. I loved the fluffy “very berry” pancakes which have blueberries inside and strawberries on top. (Which means it’s healthy, right?) The place is also a huge hit with the kids, whose adorable artwork adorns a wall by the cash register.